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Remembering O.P.Nayyar – The quintessential emperor of rhythm

Remembering O.P.Nayyar – The quintessential emperor of rhythm
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The month of January is somewhat special for thousands of connoisseurs of O.P.Nayyar, the  legendary  music director,  popularly described as the ‘ rhythm king’ of Bollywood since the maestro was born on 16th January,1926 and left for Heavenly abode on 28th January, 2007. Consequently,   heartfelt tribute is being  paid countrywide and even across the world and social media is agog with reminiscing the immortal tunes composed by ‘musical alchemist’. The ‘Hindustan Times’ reported that passionate followers even had staged ‘theatrical tribute to melody-man’, O.P.Nayyar on 16th January.      

Despite the passage of time,   O.P.Nayyar’s  lilting,  foot-tapping   compositions   remain eternal favourites  to the innumerable aficionados of Bollywood film songs.  Empirical experiences reveal   that    ‘dance-friendly’, rhythmic   compositions   of   O.P.Nayyar   suit the tastes of fast-pace- loving present   generations.   Consequently   ‘remixed’ versions of OPN songs outnumber his equally illustrious cotemporary Bollywood colleagues   like Shankar-Jaikishan, S.D.Barman etc etc.

The musical ‘pundits’ attribute   the secret of O.P.Nayyar’s  sky-rocketing popularity, overcoming generation gap syndrome,   due  to his   superlative rendition and  perfection of ‘ horse beat rhythm’.  ‘CLIP-CLOP, CLIP-CLOP’,   the  sound created by the hooves of horses galloping is typical of his characteristic music. To  quote famous music critic, Bharadwaj Rangan,   GHODA-GAADI BEAT’   had defined the music of an era’.     ‘Maang ke saath tumhara’ (Naya Daur) and ‘Piya piya piya’  (Baap Re Baap) ,  ‘Zara haule haule chalo’  (Saawan Ki Ghata),  Banda parvar, thaam lo jigar (Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon) are some of the outstanding songs composed on this rhythm.  However, ‘Yun toh humne lakh haseen dekhe hain’ is unanimously rated as the   mother of all horse beat songs with euphoric, spirit-uplifting musical resonance.

The song ‘ Deewana hua badal’ remains the milestone, the quintessential romantic song till date in the history of Bollywood   that revolutionized the very concept and texture  of Hindi filmy  song.   The scintillatingly melodious number  is one of the most popular songs irrespective of age, culture,   generations   and even  transcending national boundaries. Composed as back as in 1964, this iconic song is   one of the top twenty   popular songs as per ‘You Tube’ views.    Even   neighbouring Pakistan, despite national   animosity,    takes pride in describing him as the ‘ son of Lahore’ having been born there  in the year1926.   The rendition of ‘Deewana hua’ by Khalid Baig and Nish Asher, two Pakistani celebrated singers ably supported by breath taking orchestration, is fantastic and soothing.

Foot-tapping orchestration, superb blending of instruments especially Guitar, saxophone, accordion   coupled with  Indian Classical Instruments like Santoor, Sitar, Vina, Harmonium, Dholak and Tabla etc are the hall marks of maestro’s immortal compositions. Bollywood film songs have been enriched by  some magnificent opening ‘buzz’ and  instrumental preludes and interludes, the distinguishing  characteristic feature of  O.P.Nayyar compositions.  Even a casual listener can never miss the melodious opening buzz in ‘ Pukarta chala hoon mein ( Mere Sanam),  ‘ Babuji  dheere chalna’ (ArPaar)etc etc. As soon as the opening buzz is played, people are seen humming these songs.   Similarly,  interlude instrumental renditions in ‘ Yeh Chand sa Roshan chehera ( Kashmir ki Kali’ )  ‘ Mera Naam Chun chun chu’ ( Howrah Bridge) etc  are unparalleled, to name a few.  Use of harmonium in the classic song, ‘ Leke pehla pehla pyar’ or use of flute in super hit song, ‘  chal akela ,chal akela’  Sambandh) are par-excellent.  These instrumental preludes and interludes are as good as the immortal songs themselves. Endless such instances can be given to prove the contention.

The year1954 saw the massive success of the film, ;Aar Paar’  starring Guru Dutt and all the songs composed by O.P.Nayyar   with  silken melody like   ‘Ello main haari ‘ sung by Geeta Dutt  were smashing hits pulverizing Indian cine-goers.  Guru Dutt’s two subsequent films, ‘Mr and Mrs. Iyer’ and then ‘CID’ had bumper success largely due to hauntingly melodious songs in these films composed by the maestro.   ‘Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan’,  from the film,   ‘CID’ serves to show case the versatility  of  Nayyar.    There was no looking back for   O.P.Nayyar   thereafter   and   was instantaneously described as      ‘rhythm king’ , a befitting  epithet  for his distinctly mellifluous compositions

O.P. Nayyar’s had a highly egoistic, uncompromising personality with   ‘no nonsense nature’.  A    casual  follower   of Bollywood music will be surprised to know that    he never  used  ‘Lata Mangeskar, the ‘Nightingale of India’, to sing his  songs even once in his entire illustrious career.   Towards the end of his career, Nayyar fell out with his most loved singer, Mhd Rafi.    Undaunted, the defiant Nayyar carried himself nonchalantly.   Mahendra Kapoor, subsequently,  has sung quite a few evergreen numbers  like ‘ Lakhon hain yahaan dilwale’, ‘ Aankhow mei quamat ki kajol( Kismat)’ appreciably.

‘Long before ‘fusion’ music became rage,   OP Nayyar was deftly mixing western instrumentation with Indian rhythm and producing great numbers that are still popular decades later’,  says famous critic Ravindra Kelkar.

One article is too small to highlight the greatness, multidimensional musical brilliance of O.P.Nayyar.  I wind up my tribute with the appropriate accolades of Javed Akhtar,    ‘Any lover of vintage Hindi film music can identify a  Nayyar tune as easily as any art lover would recognize an MF. Hussain painting.

– By Gautam Ganguly
Ex-Government Official


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